Study finds clues to brain tumors' origins

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center have discovered that brain tumors may be derived from the cells that form the nervous system, called neural stems cells, which may help researchers understand how this cancer begins and one day could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.

"Is brain cancer a stem cell disease? Our study suggests that pediatric brain tumors develop from cells that have many of the same characteristics as neural stems cells, but that those cells also have an abnormal ability to grow and change. We believe that neural stem cells, found normally within our brain and spinal cords, could transform into cancer cells," said Dr. Harley Kornblum, a pediatric neurologist, member of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and an associate professor of pharmacology and pediatrics at UCLA.

"We want to understand that transformation process from a normal stem cell to a cancer cell. Recent work has shown that some cancers can arise from abnormal cells that are like stem cells in that they self-renew and produce the different kinds of cells that make up a tumor. Thinking about cancer as originating from these stem cells is a new way of thinking about the fundamental nature of the disease that promises to lead to better diagnostic tests and improved cancer-specific treatments in the future," said Houman Hemmati, the lead author and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the UCLA- California Institute of Technology Medical Scientist Training Program.

The study was recently published in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Brain tumors are notoriously difficult to treat and we are always looking for new ways to study them and new avenues for treatment," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of pediatric neurosurgery and associate professor of neurosurgery at UCLA. "In children, brain tumors are the most common solid cancer. It is only by understanding the biology of these tumors that we will f


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